In Defense of Tipping in Indonesia

Many realise that tipping is not a culture in the service industry in Indonesia. In restaurants, it’s not an obligation to tip your waiter or waitress. In a cab, it’s also not mandatory, although people normally do it out of laziness to wait for changes.

I don’t normally tip in Indonesia, only when I feel to. However, I think I need to change, and Indonesians need to realise this.

We are so used to the fact that human factor does not matter. When we eat at a restaurant, we think that the only valuable component is the core: the food and drinks. When we take a cab, the only valuable component is the ride between point A and point B. When we use a delivery guy, the only cost that matters is the cost of delivery. In the services industry, like hotels or barbershops, the only valuable components are the core services: in a hotel, we stay for a night; in a barbershop, we get the haircut we envisioned.

However, after working in the service industry—design to be exact—I begin to appreciate the value in the workforce: the human beings behind everything.

Humans are fragile. They need an ecosystem to support their well-being. It can be a family, environment or friends. To set up a family or environment that support the individual’s well-being, we need money. We need money to feed our spouse and children. We need money for a good or decent shelter. We need money for transportation. For certain profession, we even need a decent environment: policemen need a safe neighborhood, designers need an inspiring neighborhood, cab drivers probably need a quiet neighborhood after noisy roads day in and day out.

When we think about a salary, it can be enough if we can manage the posts—investments and whatnots.

However, the point in tipping is not to add up on top of that salary to meet ends meet. We can never meet the ends of people who can’t manage their own money. It’s still the responsibility of each individual. The point of tipping is to give appreciation of how hard-working person someone is. It might not be much, but it gives motivation for someone to love his or her career of choice. Sometimes, one person gives so much dedication to his job that he does something outside his line of work, or beyond expectation. We acknowledge this and appreciate that as a human being, he is appreciating us as customers more than the company envisioned him or her to be.

It’s not about appreciating the business he’s in, it’s about appreciating the personal dedication.

That way, when the company utterly fails to appreciate him, he knows that customers ultimately decide, and that there are people out there who care.

That work is ultimately beyond companies. That work is beyond one’s job. That career is a life-time’s service.

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Reflections on digital product design, travel, food and the in-betweens. Finding my compass.

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